Saturday, February 25, 2012

South Africa 2012 - Day Eleven

Day 11 - Safari Time

First let me apologize for the stoppage on the posts. The internet over here is less than stellar. I have had a hard time loading pictures and for the last few days just getting on the internet has been a problem I am back on now and so will post a few days without photos.

Monday morning started with anticipation as we packed to go on an overnight safari. Many years ago the family had gone on a safari in Kenya where they stayed out in tents and had bucket showers. I had not gone on this trip but I knew when they told us we were staying in lodges that it would not quite be the same. Monday was also a special day in that it was my birthday. As I had breakfast with my Dad I carried on trying to hint that it was a special day and he carried on commenting on how much he was looking forward to the safari. It wasn’t until about the third or fourth person came up to wish me a Happy Birthday that her remembered. It then hit me that it had been about 19 or 20 years since I had celebrated a birthday whilst being with my Mum or Dad or any of my brothers and so this year would truly be special. Barbara and the kids had bought me a New York Giants cap commemorating them winning the Superbowl and Hunter had been wearing it all morning before I realized. It was one of those double take moments when I finally recognized it.

The drive to Aquila was about two and a half hours and with 5 cars going in a caravan it was going to be interesting. I somehow was going to lead us and then the goal was to try and keep my Dad up with us. The good news was that my car was nothing more than a glorified lawn mower and so getting to the speed limit of 120 km/h was a rare feat. The bad news was that my Dad still drives very slowly. At one point having gone through a tunnel my Dad was literally within about 100 meters of me. Within a mile he was about half a mile behind me. The issue was that Mark suffers from claustrophobia and so had a hard time making it through but my Dad wanted to make sure he did make it through. Bu this seemed to be a constant effort to try and keep everyone together.

We only stopped once on the way to freshen up and get some snacks. Somehow I persuaded myself to buy a “HooHah” burger with chips (fries). Not sure I needed that much food but at least I was putting some extra fat on in case the lions caught me. Somehow Barbara persuaded me to buy her some jewelry. I think it was a first for me to buy jewelry at a petrol (gas) station but I do have to admit it was a great price.

We arrived at Aquila in the early afternoon and had to wait a couple of hours until our rooms would be ready and so we shopped or went and sat by the pool to pass the time. Eventually we all had checked into our rooms and were back at the pool for a swim. The pool was very nicely designed and even had a swim up bar. The only problem was that the water was freezing and had bits floating in it and I think swimming up to the bar to order drinks caused way too much confusion. The three bartenders were struggling. In fact I am not sure they were really bar tenders because they had no clue how to make any drink even beer. If you ordered a beer it was room temperature at best because they didn’t put them in the fridge. If anyone ordered a mixed drink it had to be made using a drink book because they had no clue where to begin. We knew it was time to leave when they turned the sprinkler system on where everyone was sun-bathing. We moved pretty quickly to get out of the way but one of the guests looked up and took sprinkler blast to the face.

At about 5 p.m. we headed out for the evening safari. It wasn’t long before we were seeing a plethora of animals - elephants, zebra, hippos, water buffalo, springboks, elands, wildebeests, and finally the lions. We even stopped off for a quick drink and a snack.

There are so many great pictures that I cannot include enough to do the trip justice. It sometimes isn’t until you spend time in close proximity to something that you realize what is happening to that something. This can be true for homeless people, children, orphans and animals. In the last few months poachers have killed the male rhinos at this park purely for their tusk. Why because some people especially the chinese believe the male tusk has special qualities. I did like what some people were doing which was cutting their finger nails and grinding these up and sending them to China labelled as rhino tusk. That alone should show the fallacy of the power of the rhino tusk.

We also learned a lot about the animals. For instance, never get between a Hippo and the water. They are extremely territorial and will attack if you get in their way. At the end of the evening safari the dominant male hippo was chasing the two younger males to make sure they knew who was boss. It was amazing to see something so big run that fast. For me it gave me hope that maybe I could also run faster. Another thing I learned was that antelope is not an animal per se but a genre just like snake or dog. All in all it was a great safari. I know there had been a lot of requests from people in England to leave Mark with the lions but our guide just wouldn’t let us.

After the safari it was back to the lodge for dinner. This was my birthday dinner and it was neat to me eating it with my family on safari in Africa. I did get a few presents including a ladies’ shirt from the safari reserve we were at - I am not sure why anyone would let Julian go shopping for me.

When you are out in beautiful places like Aquila with these amazing animals around you and amazing views it is hard if not impossible to see how their is a God who is the creator of everything. Back home in Houston there is so much light pollution that star gazing is a fruitless pastime. In Aquila the stars were absolutely stunning. I am not sure I have seen so many stars in my life maybe with the exception of in Canada.

Isaiah 40:26 - “Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing”

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